Seville’s Real Orquesta Sinfónica continued its 2018-2019 season theme of “music and the written word” with a performance of works by Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Schumann. On this occasion, it was under the baton of Daniele Rustioni, who is currently music director of the Orchestra della Toscana as well as the Opéra national de Lyon. Although only 35, this maestro has led operas at la Scala in Milan, London’s Royal Opera House, and the Met in New York. Orchestral engagements have included the prestigious Concertgebouw and Hallé Orchestras.

The programme contained two pieces inspired by literary works about the fictional libertine Don Giovanni. This is an excellent fit for Seville, since the first account of the Don is Tirso de Molina’s El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest), which was published in Spain around 1630. The Don Juan legend has been the source of a myriad of literary offerings, notably by Pushkin, Kierkegaard, George Bernard Shaw, Camus and Lord Byron. This concert featured two dramatic readings that served as introductions to both Mozart's overture to Don Giovanni and Strauss' Don Juan tone poem.

Mozart devoted an opera to the story of Don Giovanni, collaborating with Italian poet Lorenzo da Ponte. The overture’s powerful opening chords, coupled with the ominous silence between them, foreshadow the dark tale of ultimate punishment that is the fate of a nobleman who is both a philanderer and a murderer. This concert’s rendition of this piece was at times brash. The acoustics of Seville’s Teatro de la Maestranza, with its domed ceiling, are problematical. In this work the timpani often overpowered the orchestra, which otherwise presented a cohesive performance. As would be the case throughout the programme, Rustioni demonstrated a thorough command of the score.

Violinist Francesca Dego was up next with Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 4 in D major. Dego has worked with Rustioni before, having collaborated on a recording of Wolf-Ferrari’s Violin Concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon, and has been the violin soloist in concerts with famous conductors such as Sir Roger Norrington, Paul Goodwin and Christopher Hogwood. Dego’s tone resonated fully in all registers throughout the hall. Her technique was dazzling, particularly in the inspired Paganini encores. This evening's rendition of the Mozart concerto came alive in the playful third movement. The Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla provided a sensitive accompaniment.

After intermission, we returned for Richard Strauss’s musical representation of the Don Juan saga, in this case inspired by Nikolaus Lenau’s play Don Juans Ende. This composition established Strauss as a composer of international repute in the late 19th century. Unfortunately the performance was often strident: in this hall it may be worth repositioning the trumpets and trombones so that their bells are not pointed directly at the audience. Commendations go to the string section, who rose to the technical challenges imposed by this score, and to the oboe soloist in the gentle cantabile section of this tone poem.

The Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla successfully forged a connection between music and the written word at this concert presentation and delivered a musically satisfying performance of Robert Schumann’s Symphony no. 1 in B flat major "Spring" to finish out the evening. Although it seemed that not all members of the string section were fully on board with Rustioni’s interpretation, the ensemble nonetheless turned in a vibrant rendition of Schumann’s first symphony. The bass trombonist was impressive in the third movement and the woodwind section had some delightful moments in the final movement.